April is Autism Acceptance month, sometimes referred to as Autism Awareness month. While current research supports that genetic and environmental factors are some causes of autism, the exact cause of autism remains unknown. But over the years, there has been no shortage of myths about its origins.
Today the myth continues that the childhood measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines cause autism, even though the 1997 study published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield making this claim has been completely discredited due to serious errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. Dr. Wakefield lost his medical license and the paper was retracted. No other study has found evidence of vaccines causing autism.
Prior to the vaccine myth, autism was believed to be caused by “refrigerator mothers.” This theory originated from the work of Dr. Leo Kanner, a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who is widely credited with discovering autism in the 1940s. Dr. Kanner studied 11 children in the clinic who had language problems, difficulties in social interactions, and resisted unexpected changes.He named this new psychiatric disorder “infantile autism.” Although Kanner appeared to believe that autism probably existed at birth, he also noted that the coldness of his patients’ upper class “refrigerator mothers” likely added to the childrens’ problems.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Bruno Bettelheim, a University of Chicago professor and child development specialist, facilitated the widespread acceptance of the notion that autism was not innate and it was instead caused by the psychological harm of the coldness and emotional detachment of “refrigerator mothers.” Bettelheim effectively used television appearances, features in magazines and authored a book to turn “refrigerator mothers” into a popularly accepted idea. He even advocated removing autistic children from the parent’s care. It would take decades for this painful myth to be debunked!
Check out Just As You Are, for more about autism!
- Hitting the Headlines: MI health plans & preventive care, the ‘King Kong’ of weight-loss drugs & forever chemicals in clothing.
- Just As You Are: autism acceptance in the workplace, driving and more!
- Nickel and Dimed: facility charges for telehealth visits, obesity out-of-pocket expenses and medical v. consumer inflation.
- Ever Wonder?: including my personal favorite, The Reason Food Off Someone Else’s Plate Always Seems to Taste Better!
Hitting the Headlines
Just As You Are
Nickel and Dimed
Enjoy the weekend!
Suzanne Daniels, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 1416
Birmingham, MI 48012
Office: (248) 792-2187
Email: [email protected]